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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

CM Mamata Banerjee fumes at MLAs, babus, cops: Should I sweep streets now?

‘I don’t want master extortionists. I want people’s servants. In the coming days only they will get tickets’

Our Bureau Calcutta Published 24.06.24, 05:14 PM
Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata Banerjee.

Thirteen years ago, months after coming to power from the Brigade Parade ground on a rain-soaked afternoon of July 21, Mamata Banerjee had told her party supporters she was slogging like a ghost for Bengal’s “unnayan” (development)

And on Monday, June 24, 2024, the chief minister asked some of her cabinet colleagues, handful of MLAs and bureaucrats if she was expected to sweep the streets of Bengal’s cities and towns as well.

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“The government will not take the bad name for the actions of some individuals,” Mamata said at a meeting held in the state secretariat Nabanna. “Taka tolaar master chaichhi na. Janasebak chaichhi. Agami din tarai ticket pabe [I don’t want master extortionists. I want people’s servants. In the coming days only they will get tickets].”

Representatives from two of the civic bodies run by the CPM and the Congress – Nadia’s Taherpur and Purulia’s Jhalda – were not invited to Monday’s meeting.

Why is Mamata Banerjee angry?

Though the Trinamul led by Mamata trounced the Opposition winning 29 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, micro-analysis of the results reveal the Trinamul is not as comfortably poised as it appeared.

Though the Trinamul won both the Calcutta seats, it was leading in 93 wards while the BJP was ahead in 48 wards under the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

The BJP was also leading in the civic bodies in Bolpur, Gobardanga, Krishnagar, Balurghat, Raigunj, Burdwan, Englishbazar, Jhargram, Barasat, Ashokenagar, Madhyamgram, Bongaon, Katwa, Kalna, Alipurduar and Balurghat among others.

In what appeared to be a stock-taking exercise, Mamata seemed to have identified the local representatives – the MLAs, the councilors, panchayat members and a section of the bureaucrats – as factors behind the Trinamul’s apparent poor showing in urban areas.

“People go to the civic bodies for services. Most panchayats and municipalities are not working for the people. encroachments are being encouraged, illegal buildings allowed. No action is being taken,” Mamata said on Monday, holding a bunch of papers in her hand, which she referred to at repeated intervals.

“Today is my turn to speak and yours is to listen. If people do not get service, why do we need panchayats and municipalities? All that the civic bodies do is increase taxes without even consulting us.”

Mamata said that her government since 2011 had released Rs. 51, 500 crore for urban development.

“Garbage vats are overflowing, illegal parking is rampant, no proper roads in the added areas [under Kolkata Municipal Corporation). From now on truant officials will be served with show-cause notices,” she said.

Mamata names and shames

Mamata took the names of the state fire services minister Sujit Bose, accusing him of encouraging encroachment in Rajarhat, and Amrita Roy Burman, a sub-divisional officer whom she accused of neglecting Bally municipality, which is without a civic board.

The chief minister said multiple interest groups have cropped up in every part of the state.

Trinamul has been the ruling party in Bengal since 2011 with Mamata at the helm and its current strength on paper is 213. Add to that a number of defections from the BJP, the party has at least 10 more MLAs in its kitty. Of the 108 civic bodies for which polls were held in March 2022, the Trinamul bagged 102.

Yet, the chief minister did not appear happy with her party and accused the local MLAs belonging to her own party of taking advantage of the weakness in the system.

“In those municipalities where the boards have not been elected, the MLAs are doing as they please and taking advantage [read making money]. I will clean up the entire system and then go for fresh elections. If need be the clean-up should start from my home,” Mamata said.

“Rathin [Chakraborty, the BJP Lok Sabha nominee from Howrah who was a mayor when he was with the Trinamul] ruined Howrah when he was mayor. Illegal buildings have come up near Nabanna. The police and everyone else involved has turned a blind eye. Do I have to look after everything?” Mamata fumed.

The chief minister said she was aware some of her party members and a section of the bureaucracy and police were involved in raising illegal money.

“Have you seen the condition of Hatibagan? I had made the city so beautiful. A new officer-in-charge [of a police station] comes and brings new illegal settlers. Some have joined the service to make money,” Mamata said.

Mamata said from Monday onwards, the civic bodies will not be entitled to call for tenders. A committee comprising the chief secretary, the home secretary and secretaries of the finance, land and irrigation departments along with the commissioners of police and an officer of the rank of additional director general of police will monitor the tender process.

The performance of the civic body officials will be reviewed by a team including officials from the vigilance department, the additional director general of police (Law & order), an additional commissioner of police, officers from the CID and the Director of Security.

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